Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Poot Of Doom

It's odd, but true, that although any given segment of one's life seems to whip on by, and faster all the time, the life in its entirety seems like a long time to the proprietor. Even four-year-olds are being sincere when they say they've known something their "whole life." Our span of consciousness is all we've got, and with it we get to bite into our little morsel of the real universe, and it feels plenty substantial to us.

But that doesn't mean our relationship to our allotted time remains the same. Young people, who in theory have more future in front of them, tend to pay no attention to it, and wantonly endanger their bodies and fail to set anything aside for their dotage. Whereas older people have less future in front of them and are acutely aware of it. They can reach out and touch it on all its sides without lifting a butt cheek off the sofa.

As a child, I used to get strep throat every winter. Mommy presided over it and drove it away, but even when I was out on my own, lying in my disheveled sheets with a temperature of 115 and fever-dreaming about stacking up tiny important cubes on skinny scaffolds, it never occurred to me that I might die or something. That wasn't even a possibility.

When I was older, I could go to a party and methodically take in enough poison of various kinds to eliminate the bother of moral behavior and the burden of consciousness, and although the aftermath of it should have alerted me to the fragility of the human body, it didn't. I just picked myself up off the floor--you know, somebody's floor--with all the confidence in the world that my little allocation of skin and sinew would keep on truckin' more or less indefinitely.

Now I've packed away a lot more years. The boxes are starting to fill up the basement, and I don't even remember what's in a lot of them. I feel as good as I ever did, and in many ways even better. But these days, I think: something is going to take me out rather sooner than later, and what will it be? When I get a sore throat, and a little fever, I think: Houston, this is it. When I turn my head too fast and everything see-saws for a second, I think: here it comes. When I roll over at night, and my heart flops over a second later, just trying to get comfortable too, I think: Mayday! All systems shutting down!

And what is that kernel of discomfort that just staked out a square centimeter of my abdomen? What is that?

I don't know which perspective makes more sense. I might have remained unaware of a lot of things when I was young, but at least I could recognize a trapped fart when I felt one.

53 comments:

  1. I have my mayday moments, usually late in the night, when my heart skips a beat then does double time catching up. It happens a lot less now I have my asthma medication sorted, apparently my irregular breathing was the trouble. I'm still relatively unconcerned about my future though, my only worry is that I'll go before I see my grandchildren married and parents to their own babies.

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    1. Yeah, it's no fun unless you can scare the dickens out of your great-grandchildren by being old as hell. Double points if you can drop your dentures.

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  2. Awwwww! I don't remember ever seeing that second picture. About 1980?

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    1. I'd have to say about then. I still have the wooden wine glasses! Note: you look PERFECTLY sober.

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  3. I've been a reader, but not commenter, for quite a long time. Appreciate and enjoy your blog. You make me laugh and think. Realized it's about time I let you know that (since I'm of the age of Mayday! thoughts as well), rather than remain a lurker and wallflower fan. Thank you for your effort and sharing your excellent writing and insight. Kim in PA

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    1. I think it's just swell of you to take the time to write. I have way more readers than commenters so I know you're out there. (Not WAY way; I have definitely not hit the big time, but it is nice to know there are lurkers out there. Keeps the juices flowing!)

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    2. I'm another of the uncounted. Either you're writing true truths or making me laugh, sometimes both at the same time. You're right on target! I'm 78 and a BIG FAN.

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    3. So pleased to hear it. But uncounted? I know you've commented before!

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  4. Well, you've put into words the thoughts that run through my brain way too often. And River's comment too.
    I feel alternately sad or angry---I wanted to live forever...

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    1. Theoretically, and officially, I don't want to live forever, but a good long run would be nice.

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    2. I read somewhere that we don't want to live to be 100; we want to be 40 for 60 years.
      Works for me, except that it's too late.

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    3. How about sixty for forty years?

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    4. I'm planning on outliving my grandma who made it to 96, so I'll be happy to get to 97, but I'll settle for 100.

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  5. As Jim Morrison once sang, "Woke up this morning and got myself a beer. The future's uncertain and the end is always near." Unfortunately or fortunately, it was nearer for him than us.

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    1. You know, he always sort of bugged me. I was not a Doors fan and he just looked so self-satisfied and smarmy. This leaves me more headroom to mourn Lowell George.

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    2. He was at UCLA the same time I was. Trust me, he WAS smarmy.

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  6. I try to be cheerful, but I am really, really good at math. I sometimes. in my more morbid moments, calculate how many years I probably have left. Then I take that number and think back in the other direction, to the age I was that many years ago. I think how it feels like almost no time at all has elapsed. I extrapolate that it probably will feel even quicker barreling toward my future demise. And since those future years will be spent deteriorating rather than developing... well, let's just say that by the end of this little exercise, I am in a panic, which can only be ameliorated by having a beer. Or a couple. Even if it's technically still morning. Don't judge.

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    1. One cool thing that helps me is I didn't start writing until just before I retired, and that is one activity that doesn't feel like a deterioration. Lots of things are slipping and sliding but I still have that. And judge? I am the last, the very last, I tell you, to judge.

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  7. Ah, the middle of the night thoughts when we stare down dark corridors wondering what's waiting for us. I plan on going kicking and screaming to the end.

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  8. It would have been exhausting worrying about everything that could kill me when younger. Either I would have done everything and said the hell with it, or done nothing...I am so much more cautious nowadays, ever since I fell while running (actually a fast walk), broke a tooth, my glasses and had a black eye for days.

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    1. I've instituted a few habits because of the falling-down thing, but one thing I've learned from it is that APPARENTLY I have strong bones (and glasses).

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  9. “You have this infinity inside you that feels like it could go on forever.” Venus Williams , when asked about aging. (poor dear is 36)

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    1. Well, she really does have an infinity inside her. It could be argued.

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  10. When I was a kid we played outside unsupervised, climbed trees, had no bike helmets or seat belts & drank out of the garden hose. It's amazing that any of us lived to adulthood!!

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    1. Some of us didn't, of course, but I don't know of any deaths by running with scissors or sticking knives in the sockets or taking candy from strangers, which are the only things I can specifically remember being warned against.

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    2. Wait! What's the deal with the garden hose?

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    3. Turn on the tap, run to the business end of the hose and take a drink before turning it on your brother :)

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  11. I understand those thoughts. I keep thinking the days are slipping away from me and I haven't crammed them nearly full enough.

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    1. Sometimes cramming them with inactivity is just the ticket, though.

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  12. Mayday moments I don't have. I do however have times when I wonder whether the speed of trajectory into that good night has increased dramatically. And I am fine with that.

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  13. I'm now damn' near fifty years past qualifying for (dubious) membership of that silly Twenty Seven Club.I seem to have accepted that some things are beyond me.Shoe laces can be a tad tricky.But I'm still happy enough to continue til the lights are turned off.Ready to go? Hell! NO.I have never been a good planner.

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    1. I think we were supposed to be rich, famous, or talented to qualify anyway.

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  14. Don't you think part of the problem is that when somebody dies we're often told: "They discovered the (tumor, infection, alien larva) too late. If only he'd had it checked out sooner . . ."
    So now, the least little thing and we think we could be guilty of our own demise if we don't have "it" checked out NOW.
    Used to be there wasn't much to be done for many ailments, so you waited them out without guilt. But now we feel we might be at fault if we don't run to the doctor for every little discomfort, just in case it's the first symptom of something dire.

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    1. The problem with that is that we all are going to die of something, eventually. If we don't die of a heart attack, then we have something worse to look forward to: cancer. If cancer doesn't get us, then something even worse may be lurking: Alzheimer's. If there is something worse than that, I sure as hell do not want to know about it!

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    2. I can't say I run to the doctor with everything, only maybe I do--there hasn't been much, after all. I like to think I'm finely attuned to the personal apparatus, although the beer helps mitigate that somewhat.

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    3. Exactly, Hamanda! I'm not REALLY hypochondriachal; it's just that my mother died of her Thing two weeks after initial diagnosis. The question that's haunted her family since then is, "Did she know and didn't tell us? Why??? And how could she not have known?" I don't want to haunt my kids with that, so I run to the doctor for every early sign. Of everything.

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    4. I can't get a doctor to agree that there's something wrong with my heart. That's annoying.

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  15. I have the mayday thoughts too. If it ain't a heart attack, it will probably be an errant allergic reaction. HOpefully a good 20 years or more away, though...

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    1. I visualize dying in bed without pain. Just the fog rolling in. That's not a prediction: that's probably just a fond wish.

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  16. I think about this from time to time as well. In my father's nursing home there was such a variety of cautionary tales that it kind of ruined my ability to stay in denial.

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    1. I was not known as a pretty baby, but by all accounts I was a happy one!

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  17. You are echoing my mind and thoughts...as well as a whole lot of others' apparently! Nice to have reassurance that one is normal.

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    1. I think existential angst is durn near universal.

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  18. I'm the carefullest old lady I know, bound and determined to not fall. But a week ago I stood up from a Scrabble game and promptly and unexpectedly passed out. And I hit the wall on the way down which pushed my glasses into by forehead and caused blood -- lots of it -- to appear.Next thing I know I'm in an ambulance. 40 stitches and a week later I'm recovering. Some things just happen, darn.

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    1. I'm going to try that next time I'm losing at Scrabble. Holy moly, dear! That's dreadful!

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